Baseball, WVU Sports

WVU heading to Lexington Regional to face Indiana in NCAA tournament

MORGANTOWN — A year ago there was nothing but disappointment, as WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey had to walk into a room full of his players and tell them their season was over.

Mazey had been alerted his team had been snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee, and so there was no gathering around the TV inside the team room at Mon County Ballpark like what was found Monday.

“Last year when we were told we weren’t in, I think most people were in tears crying,” WVU second baseman J.J. Wetherholt said. “This year, we heard our names called and everyone was jumping around and screaming. It was polar opposites.”

The Mountaineers (39-18) indeed heard their names called and will play Indiana at 7 p.m. Friday in the Lexington (Ky.) Regional. It’s WVU’s 14th appearance in the NCAA tournament.

WVU is the No. 2 seed in the region, but — at least on paper — there seems to be little difference between the Mountaineers and the Hoosiers (41-18).

Kentucky (36-18), the No. 12 national seed, is the host and will play Ball State (36-21) in the first round. The winners and losers of both games will meet Saturday in what is a double-elimination format.

The winner of the Lexington Regional is scheduled to face the winner of the regional hosted by No. 5 LSU in a best-of-three super regional.

For a moment, we flash back to that scene in 2022, when WVU had set a program record with 14 Big 12 victories — the Mountaineers broke it with 15 this season — and an RPI ranking of No. 49 in the country, yet they were left out.

“I told them last year when we didn’t get in, ‘Remember this feeling. How bad you feel right now, remember it,’ ” Mazey said. “That will serve for you to play with a chip on your shoulder this year, and I think we’ve done that.”

The Mountaineers, who finished in a three-way tie in the regular season for the Big 12 title, rose to the occasion several times this season. WVU recorded 14 wins against teams that made the field of 64 and rose as high as No. 6 in the national rankings, before a sour five-game losing streak WVU will look to end in Kentucky.

“What we’ve done this year in winning six out of eight Big 12 series and going on roll and sweep TCU at home, you beat Oklahoma and Texas Tech at home,” Mazey said. “What we’ve done in this league is amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

WVU is 1-2 all-time against Indiana with all three games played at a neutral site.

The Hooisers finished second in the Big Ten during the regular season, one game behind Maryland in the standings. Indiana went 1-2 in the Big Ten tournament and was eliminated, 13-6, by Michigan.

The Hooisers, who have eight victories against NCAA-tournament teams, are 6-4 over their last 10 games.

They are led by sophomore catcher Brock Tibbitts, who batted .372 with 10 home runs and 66 RBIs. Devin Taylor was seventh in the Big Ten with 16 home runs.

This is the Hoosiers ninth NCAA appearance, and their first since going to three straight from 2017-19.

WVU’s ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is No. 24. Indiana is No. 30.

As a team, WVU has hit 76 home runs. Indiana has 72. WVU has driven in 401 runs. Indiana has 434 RBIs, and both teams have six players with at least 40 RBIs on the season.

The only real offensive difference between both schools is WVU was hit by more pitches, walked slightly more and stole 79 more bases.

Both schools are strong against the stolen base. WVU allowed just 22 all season, while Indiana allowed 30.

“The only thing I know about Indiana, is when Tyler Doanes (former WVU player) transferred there two years ago,” WVU shortstop Tevin Tucker said. “Other than that, not much.

“Our coaches will watch film and look at their hitters and look at their pitchers. For us, it’s kind of just listen to the coaches and hear what they’re saying. In practice, we’ll kind of implement what they do and learn more about them through the coaches.”

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